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How does research happen?

From idea to reality

The vaccine, respirator or talk therapy to treat mental illness – most of the interventions you encounter in public healthcare have been research projects before ending up at the primary healthcare centre or the hospital.

The research has often happened in several stages, leading to gradual improvements in the diagnostic method, drug or treatment.

The research always starts with an idea or an assumption (hypothesis) which is tested through experiments and studies.

The results can sometimes be transferred directly from the University to public healthcare. This could mean an improved and safer method for hip operations, for example.

However, it is also common for further development outside the University to be required before findings can be applied. Ideas for new drugs and prototypes for medical equipment are refined and undergo careful testing by private companies which acquire the rights to the products through contracts.

Evidence-based care is a recurrent concept in public healthcare, which means that the treatment or diagnostic method is based on scientific studies.

Basic research

Not all research starts with someone who is in everyday contact with patients noticing a shortcoming or an area for improvement.

Researchers dedicated to medical research also try to map the fundamental causes of a disease, such as cancer or diabetes. In that case, it is common for them to study what happens in the onset of the disease at the cellular and micro level or in animal experiments.

The purpose, however, is the same – for the discoveries eventually to lead to new drugs and treatments.

Who conducts research?

Modern research almost always happens in a group of several different researchers.

Historically, the researcher was often someone with a degree in biomedicine, or a physician or nurse.

In order to solve current research problems, medical research now involves an increasing range of professions. We also collaborate more and more frequently with other research specialisations such as the humanities, social sciences and engineering.

What does a research study require?

Patients and volunteers are involved only in some of the many medical and health sciences research studies that are carried out. A great deal of research is conducted in laboratories using cells, samples and, in some cases, also animal experiments. Statistics from various registers and databases are another important source for research studies.

Some research, in areas such as health sciences, also uses what are known as qualitative methods which may entail interviews, surveys and case studies.

Research is largely about studying the background material and other people’s research findings. Time in front of a computer and participation in conferences and meetings are therefore equally important parts of the work.